“Bhava” – is the English version of the Kannada novel bearing the same name, by U.R.Anantha Murthy , the Jnanpith winning author, which was the one and only reason for my borrowing this novel from the library. Well, its a week since I completed it. Still, I am indecisive about my impression on the novel. I can’t exactly say I liked the novel. But, I don’t mind giving it another reading either. Perhaps, there is something in the novel which stimulates the thought process. Perhaps, i am whimsical about it. Coming to the name, BHAVA is derived from the sanskrit word BHU, to be, means both being and becoming each containing the seeed of the another. These 2 interwoven meanings frame Ananthamurthy’s tale. Additional meanings -turning in to, life, worldly existence,the world,continuity of becoming..also inform about the story. I think there is a philosophical angle to this story.
The story begins with Sastri seeing a person Dinkar on train, who happens to wear the amulet which resembles the one his first wife Saroja had. Sastri has been living under the belief that he killed his first wife who was carrying at that time, suspecting an illicit affair. Is Dinakar his son? or the one born out of Saroja’s affair with the Pandit who was their regular visitor those days? These questions bother Sastri. While this is one part of the story, Dinakar has a different story. His mother died when he is very young, just leaving this amulet. The mystery surrounding his mother’s death still intrigues him. Did she know she was going to die? Else, why will she put that amulet around his neck, go in to the river, never to return? He never knew who his father was. He grew up under the care of Tripati, at Varanasi. Now almost in his middle age, on ayyappa oath, Dinakar, the television star is on his way to meet the family whom he knew during his Varanasi days. Sastri knows the family well and so, takes Dinakar to their house. Sitamma, the old lady, who showered motherly love on Dinakar those days, still is the same old Sitamma. Her son Narayan Tantri and grandson Gopal form their family. Dinakar wants to open himself with Narayan Tantri, but something prevents him. We realise it is the same case with Narayan Tantri too when they both talk between themselves sometime later. It so happens that Gangu, the woman with whom Dinakar had an illicit affair had an affair with Narayan Tantri too. She has a son Prasad, whose father she herself never knew. Her husband Chandrappa tends to ignore her past life.
This part was actually a bit of wierd thing to me … The whole story revolving around illicit relations. Not just these … Sastri has an affair with one Radha, since his youth, well known to his first wife Saroja and then to his second wife Mahadevi too. It appears artificial compared to real life – the kind of harnony that exists between Radha and Sastri’s family members. As if these are not enough, story becomes even wierd as Dinakar begins to write letters to all those women with whom he had affairs at one time or the other !! One of those women, after a brief affair with him on a train, later becomes Mahamata, the saintly mother. There are Sastri’s thoughts about his life, his decision to re-accept his daughter, whom he sent out after her love affair with someone not from his caste. All these affairs, the “immoral” lives exist throughout the story. But, still, what appears to be the story is not the actual story, from what I understood. The story, I think should be thought of in a different sort of framework. The philosophical ideas in the story are interesting.
Actually, I think Gangu’s character conveys the intentions of author better than anybody else, observing its characterisation. Anyways, this thing called BHAVA is an intellectual exercise. It is not a brilliantly written novel … but it has this tendency to make our mind wander in to thought-gally 🙂 . The author does not solve the mysteries about the lives of Sastri, Dinakar, Prasad (Gangu’s son) and others … he just leaves the questions open, which perhaps is one reason why I don’t mind reading this novel again. Finally, this is a different kind of novel. Perhaps, it should be understood differently too !! Though it is not exceptional, there is something in it which still intrigues me.